TOPEKA — In the Kansas Senate as in car sales, sometimes it takes more than one try to close the deal.
After falling short on a tie vote early Wednesday, Sen. and Wichita auto dealer Les Donovan later won Senate approval of a bill giving more favorable tax treatment to new and late-model used cars.
The bill would reduce drivers’ property taxes for new cars and newer used cars, while raising the minimum tax to be levied in the future on old cars.
Donovan, founder of a family-owned Cadillac-Buick-GMC dealership, said the tax change would give Kansans an incentive to upgrade to more fuel-efficient and environmentally cleaner vehicles.
“The owner of the car will get a break in taxes … it won’t be a dramatic drop but it will keep us more competitive with the states around us and the rest of the country,” Donovan said. “And at the same time (it will) encourage people to move up the ladder and buy later-model vehicles which better suit their lifestyle and family needs, and in the process produce more revenue for everyone involved.”
Opponents of the change in car taxes cited a fiscal projection showing that the change would reduce the tax money collected by local government by $168 million over the next four years.
Cuts in taxes on car sales “may be good for car sales, but they’re not good for local units of government,” said Sen. Pat Pettey, D-Kansas City.
Donovan argued that local governments actually gained revenue after a similar cut in car taxes in the 1990s, because it spurred car sales and more car sales means more taxable transactions.
On the first try, SB 181 fell just short of passage with a tie vote at 19-19.
“I wasn’t a good enough salesman, so I guess I’ll go back to used cars,” Donovan said as the outcome of that vote became clear.
“We’ll continue to have one of the oldest fleets of cars in the United States and have people registering their cars in Texas and Missouri and other places,” he said.
But when the Senate reconvened about three hours later, Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, who was acting chairman of the afternoon session, said he’d been asked to bring the measure back up for another vote.
“I voted no, I’ll probably continue to vote no,” Sen. Pat Apple, R-Louisburg, said. “But whenever there’s a willingness to rehear something again, I think we owe it to the body to bring that back up, and if there’s votes to pass it out this time, that’s just part of the process.”
However, on the final vote, King changed his earlier vote from no to yes. Two other senators – Robert Olson, R-Olathe, and Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell – also switched from no to yes.
Republican Sen. Elaine Bowers, a Concordia car dealer, voted in favor of the bill in the first round but passed on the second vote.
A third senator/car dealer, Jeff Longbine, R-Emporia, passed on voting both times and said he felt it would be a conflict of interest for him to vote.
The bill now goes to the House for consideration.
Contributing: Brent D. Wistrom of The Eagle.